COUPON QUEEN: Tips for smart online holiday shopping

keyboard keys with shopping key with a shopping cart on it

RUBY BEDI
VANCOUVER DESI

Want to save yourself some serious cash this holiday season? Practice smart online shopping.

During the holiday season we tend to spend more than normal.  Considering the socializing, gift-exchanges, potlucks, parties, wish lists and holiday sales, it isn’t hard to get caught up in all the spending.  A great way to save money and avoid claustrophobic malls is to shop online.  Even if you are concerned about using your credit card for internet shopping, you can still save lots of time and money by doing your comparison shopping online.

Pricing

Not all deals are as great as they seem at first glance.  The price for an online item may look lower than advertised in the stores, but keep in mind any additional costs that you may have to pay such as shipping and duty.  Check the shipping options available because some retailers will allow free shipping as a promo or if you pick up the product at one of their retail locations.  Make sure you also search Google or coupon sites for coupon codes that allow free shipping or additional discounts.  If you are browsing for products on non-Canadian sites, you also have to be prepared to pay the duty on your purchase in addition to taxes when the item gets shipped to you.  Duties on goods vary widely, depending on the product and the country in which it was manufactured.  There are estimating tools available online such as Duty Calculator.

Comparison Shopping

Put on your coziest PJs, grab your beverage of choice and get comfy.  Sounds better than an exhausting day running around town searching for deals doesn’t it?  Google is a good place to start your comparison shopping but there are other tools you can use as well.

There are a number of sites referred to as shopping engines that can help you find the best prices locally, across the country and even internationally.  Some Canadian price comparison sites to check out: shopbot.ca, pricegrabber.ca, shoptoit.ca, and nextag.ca.  If you are a cross border shopper also check out American price comparison sites.

A tool I have just started using is Priceblink.  It is a browser add-on available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Chrome. What’s cool is that the add-on only appears when you are shopping online, otherwise when surfing it stays hidden. When you are on a site where you are shopping a message bar pops up at the top of your screen to offer coupons, price comparisons and product reviews.  It scans over 4000 merchants to find lower prices for the item you are viewing.  PriceBlink is directed towards a US audience but it is still a great price comparison tool even though it does not cover some familiar Canadian merchants.

There are also sites like redflagdeals.com, pricenetwork.ca, smartcanucks.ca and flyerland.ca.  These sites list deals found by other shoppers, allow you to check flyers from one place and have forums where you can post requests for information once you sign up.

Know the Terms

BEFORE charging your card, make sure to check the return and exchange policies.  They tend to vary widely so it is smart to read them thoroughly before making your purchase so there are no surprises.  Before pressing the submit button to make your purchase, double check all details including the billing and shipping address, the payment information and the total cost.  Print out your documentation and/or receipt or better yet save a tree and save as PDF files onto your computer.  Also, make a note of when your purchase should be arriving so you can follow up with the retailer if you do not receive it.

Happy Holiday Shopping!

Ruby Bedi was a Coupon Queen even before coupon savings were trendy. Her passion for saving money is matched to her mission to help people learn to budget, save, and get out of debt by making smart buying choices.  She can be reached at buzzworthybudgets@gmail.com.

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